The Wall Street Journal recently published an article identifying best selling authors who started out by writing fan fiction (see this link).I was glad to see that article, because fan fiction has been regarded as a sort of seedy underworld for far too long, thought to be populated exclusively by people who write poorly, with no originality whatsoever.
Yes, I will agree there is a lot of very poorly written fan fiction posted to the Internet. After all, anyone with a computer and an email address can post a story to any number of web sites. However, there are also some wonderful writers out there, writing stories well worth reading, and certainly worthy of formal publication. In fact, I have discovered fan fiction writers who write better stories than what I often encounter while perusing the shelves in bookstores.
Now, having said that, I am going to do what people "in the business" have told me not to do for well over ten years, since I first discovered fan fiction. I am openly admitting to writing fan fiction. I will also publicly acknowledge my fan fiction pseudonym.
Unlike the authors in the article, I did not start out by writing fan fiction. Frankly, I've been writing stories and poems since I could write. Period. As evidence, I discovered a crudely crafted version of the "roses are red and violets are blue" variety, written in crayon in a home-made Mother's Day card that my mother never had the heart to throw away. In junior high school, while other students passed notes in class, I passed chapters of an epic saga about a young girl named Angie (sadly, that "evidence" was destroyed long ago, along with my Donny Osmond collection, when I was more concerned about being in with the in crowd than with being myself).
In college, I started another epic saga, set in a fantasy world of my own creation, called Anvaar. I built Anvaar for two decades, resulting in four novels and a fairly extensive codex of languages, maps, kingdoms and characters. The first novel, which was very definitely not "ready for prime time," went through the submission and rejection process (with encouragement if not any actual assistance from Terry Brooks, himself). The last novel I believe was close to publishable. Unfortunately, I did not put the finishing touches on that last novel, because something about 9/11 made me lose interest in the fantasy genre. I suppose reality kicked me upside the head, proving to me that monsters don't only exist in fantasy.
When I set aside Anvaar, I started writing fan fiction. My first stories, based on "Stargate SG1" and a little known series called "The Sentinel," were well accepted by the fan communities; and I can recognize now a steady progression with each new story posted. My writing improved. I learned to be less verbose, more concise. My writing style solidified. I found my voice.
My most recent and current "fandom" is, oddly enough, my oldest. "Bonanza" was a favorite television show of mine as a child. I often created stories in that "universe" in my mind, when I was growing up. Now, fifty years later, I am still creating stories set on the Ponderosa. The difference is now I am writing those stories down. And guess what? People are reading them. My Bonanza stories have been "favorited" far more frequently than any of my others. And readers range from people older than me to teenagers. Yes folks, a series that has been off the air since the 70s is still gaining fans. Young fans. I like to believe I am part of a renaissance of sorts, since westerns seem to be getting some new life lately (perhaps encouraged in part by the many fans of Joss Whedon's "Firefly" series, a western set in space that was deftly written, wonderfully produced...and both under-appreciated and poorly treated by the network that canned it).
My foray into Bonanza-dom is quite a divergence from the monsters in my Anvaar stories and the horrors of the speculative poetry I started publishing formally a few years ago. With Bonanza, I find myself replacing horror with faith, monsters with humanity and brotherhood. I suppose that's why I can't seem to stop writing it. When I was writing about monsters, I felt as though I was surrounded by them. They were suffocating me, constricting my chest, stealing my breath...maybe even stealing my soul, a little bit at a time. Now, with Bonanza, I'm getting it back.
And so...I'm taking the leap by publicly acknowledging those stories that are letting me be myself, whether or not I fit in with the in crowd. And I have faith that it's the right thing to do.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the Bonanza stories of Freyakendra.